CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some landscaping projects are purely aesthetic. But Gary Lane's vision for the John XXIII Pastoral Center was deeper than that.
"When you do something in a place like this, it needs to be calming and uplifting," Lane said. He serves as the manager of the facility, and those duties come with some creative outlets in the gardens.
"When I came here several years ago, it was predominantly the original landscaping - 20-plus years old," Lane said. "We kept some if it and added a lot of new things."
Lane's interest in sprucing up the landscape came "the day the bishop made his first visit here," Lane said with a laugh. "We needed to make it look nice."
With a lot of support from Bishop Michael Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Lane worked with Cary Levinson of Valley Gardens to create a retreat atmosphere throughout the property located off Corridor G in Charleston. The center is used for family, adult and youth groups, and has 40 rooms and two dorms providing comfortable overnight lodging for 166 people. The chapel and dining room seat 250.
"The bishop initiated the purchase of the statue of Pope John XXIII, and he wanted it in a prominent place to visitors to the center," Lane explained. "It needed to be landscaped around the statue, not just placed on the site."
"Gardens have been important to the bishop throughout his life, starting when he was growing up," Lane said. "He understands the value of the natural meditative and spiritual aspects of a garden."
Valley Gardens was already doing the lawn and landscape maintenance work at the center when Lane started working on plans, funding and approval for the multitude of projects that have been completed in the past 18 months. Lane and Levinson worked to create several interesting spaces, including a trio of "waterless" fountains suggested by Levinson.
"Folks think the black stone looks like coal," Levinson said. "It's basalt. The stone for the three rock fountains came from Washington state."